August 21, 2006

Study Data: Best & Worst Marketing Channels to Influence Business Purchasing Decisions

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland

Have you ever wondered what marketing your prospects are most likely to take seriously? After all, you're reaching folks at a zillion touch points these days, from search ads to direct mail to television.

What media really moves the needle? What turns a shopper considering dozens of options into a buyer of your particular product or service?

This May, MarketingSherpa's research team partnered with the folks at CNET's business network (they publish such sites as ZDNet and TechRepublic) to ask business execs what marketing had *directly* influenced a technology or services purchase decision in the past 12 months. This had to be a purchase they already made or authorized.

Guess what? All of the top three answers were … offline.

That's right. Word of mouth was #1 at 48.3%. Conferences and trade shows were #2 at 41.9%, and print magazines were #3 at 40.6%. (Folks could give more than one answer, so this added up to far more than 100%.)

What was worst? Email from a company you don't know limped in at 4% (email newsletters from a known company came in at 34.1%.) Cold calls from a telemarketer were a lowly 2.8%. Podcasts at 2.7% were dead last, but I suspect that's actually good news. There are so few technology marketing podcasts out there targeting business executives that it's a big deal for the tactic even to "make the list" in the actual recipients' minds.

Perhaps the most fascinating results were about blogs.

Turns out in business prospects' minds all blogs are NOT alike. Blogs from vendors were rated a lowly 4.6% in terms of influence for the purchase decision. Blogs from industry media and analysts were rated more than double at 10%. But, blogs written by "other technology professionals" were a leap above that, skating in at 19.6% influential.

Which naturally brings you back to the whole word-of-mouth factor again. Seems that prospects don't trust vendor sites or marketing materials these days. They certainly trust the trade press and analysts a bit more -- especially if these are "in print" (ah, the power of ink and paper you can hold in your hand). However, when it comes to a high-priced technology purchase decision, most executives trust their colleagues and peers more than anyone else.

This says something a bit sad about the state of trustworthy voice coming from B-to-B copywriters and marketing communicators these days.

But, on the other hand, it opens a giant field of opportunity. What, you ask? Evangelism marketing. Chances are your competitors are working so hard on generating new business from all the typical channels -- ranging from direct mail to search -- that they've ignored the power of word of mouth.

In fact, most marketers I ask tell me that their only true effort toward word-of-mouth marketing is hoping their email newsletter will get passed along to a few more people. Well, that's fine and dandy. I hope it does, too.

But in the meantime, shouldn't more of your budget and staff time be devoted toward the marketing medium that's proven -- by this study at least -- to be the most powerful one for directly influencing business buying decisions?

Why not start an evangelism marketing brainstorming session at your company today? One quick tip -- throw out any ideas about bribing word of mouth. Only genuine unforced enthusiasm works in this medium.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see the detailed chart that this data is presented in, along with a lot of other useful new B-to-B marketing stats, there's a download link immediately below.

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MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Benchmark Guide 2007:

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